Links 6/22/14

Why “American” Is a Bad Word in Australia The Baffler

There’s A Big Disagreement Between Wall Street And The Fed — And It Will Be The Story Of The Summer Business Insider

Evidence Shows Media Reports of Credit Card Spending Growth are Overhyped and Wrong Econintersect (WM).

Social Security’s continuing assault on its own customer service LA Times. Good article, but they’re not “customers.” They’re citizens. More neo-liberal crapification on the road to privatization and looting, as with the VA and the Post Office.

Nixon Hatched Fast Track, Not FDR Eyes on Trade. Listen up, House Democrats! “Fast Track turned ‘trade’ pacts into backdoor means for executive branch officials to set policy on an array of matters otherwise under Congress’ or state legislatures’ constitutional authority.”

How far can Amazon go? Economist

Amazon Living Wage campaigners place dummy book on site as protest Guardian. Pulled in two hours. 114 reviews, 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Water war bubbling up between California and Arizona LA Times

David Suzuki: Northern Gateway Approval Flies in Face of Democracy and Global Warming DeSmogBlog

Governor signs bill blocking levee board lawsuit Daily Reveille. Louisiana blocks state suits against 97 oil and gas companies.

Derelict Oil Wells May Be Major Methane Emitters Climate Central

WH rejects independent prosecutor for IRS McClatchy

Special prosecutor rejects Scott Walker’s ‘partisan’ take on John Doe Journal-Sentinel

Wisconsin Employment Flatlines Econbrowser

Repressing World Cup protests — a booming business for Brazil Waging Nonviolence

The Case for Net Neutrality Foreign Affairs

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

An Open Letter to Glenn Greenwald Counterpunch

House of Representatives moves to ban NSA’s ‘backdoor search’ provision Guardian

Suit by Protest Groups on Spying Is Dismissed Times

US military wants to make a portable, bullet-resistant wall that fits in a can The Verge. Finally an answer to “open carry.”


Survey of Non-Group Health Insurance Enrollees KHN. “[N]early six in ten Exchange enrollees were previously uninsured.”

For some, Obamacare delivers ​”sticker shock” CBS

After the ACA: Salem Health experiences good and bad Salem Statesman-Journal

German economics minister “austerity policies have failed” Bill Mitchell – billyblog

Questions remain over status of ex-Laiki depositors Cyprus Mail

Make Good Government, Not War Noah Smith, Bloomberg


Ukraine crisis: Poroshenko’s ceasefire lasts only hours as peace plan crumbles Independent

Putin Backs Cease-Fire in Ukraine; U.S. Expands Sanctions Bloomberg


Turmoil in Iraq could engulf global oil market Telegraph

Isis rebels seize Iraq-Syria border town FT

Iraq conflict: Insurgents capture 3 more towns, move on key dam CBC. #SykesPicotOver.

Barack Obama: Iraq’s military must diversify Politico

Iraqi Shia groups rally in show of power Al Jazeera

Middle East: Falling to pieces FT

The Elephant in the Room: Thailand’s Royal Succession and the Coup IndoPacific Review

China: Winners From Thailand’s Coup Asia Sentinel

‘Occupy Central’ Opens Referendum on Reforming Hong Kong’s Democracy The Diplomat

Class Warfare

Marc Andreessen and Al3x Payne mathbabe

A Job Seeker’s Desperate Choice Times. A former mortgage loan office, though the Times makes nothing of that.

The secret of Generation C Gillian Tett, FT

Matters of Character Ian Welsh

Eigenmorality Shtetl-Optimized

The cybernetics of Occupy: an anarchist perspective ROAR. The forgotten history of Stafford Beers and cybernetics in Allende’s Chile (!).

Antidote du jour (via). Sunday is the last day of National Pollinator Week:


See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Carolinian

    Counterpunch/Greenwald–Jimmy Carter says that lately when he wants to communicate with world leaders he puts a letter in an envelope and mails it. So there is that solution to the undoubtedly unsolvable security problems when using computers and the internet.

    I do think paranoia about the NSA may be a bit overdone. One of these days that haystack is going to get so big it’s going to explode. In classic totalitarian societies the thing you had to worry about was being denounced by your neighbors. By taking away the human agency and going with a robotic approach the NSA version of Big Brother likely to be far less effective if social control is the goal.

    But as the article says, ultimately this is a political problem. Greenwald/Snowden’s consciousness raising may help with motivating some reform.

    1. psychohistorian

      The haystack of data is not going to explode. The haystack of data is a myth to cover for propagating lies about your opponents and history, like 1984.

      If you have faith you can be convinced that NSA data is accurate.

    2. Kurt Sperry

      Untappable key distribution system:
      a one-time-pad booster
      Geraldo A. Barbosa and Jeroen van de Graaf

      One possible approach to robustly secure communication over the internet out of Brazil. We’ve seen it asserted here numerous times such a thing is impossible.

    3. McMike

      The value in the haystack is retrospective.

      If you find your way onto the authorities’ radar, then they go back and call up every single thing you did, visited, bought, or thought since 2001.

      Then they figure out ways to use that against you/make your life miserable/harass you/smear you/put you in jail.

      1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

        And our loophole-riddled Codes are part and parcel of the mechanism you describe.

        I have heard judges, on numerous occasions, throw out the old chestnut regarding ignorance of the law not being a valid defense.

        As if the average citizen can decipher our laws. If the laws were written more clearly, in the first place, the legal industry would crash.

        You know your legal system is corrupt, to the bone, when it becomes so Byzantine that ‘specialists’ earn big money by exploiting the complexity of that system.

      2. Carolinian

        Garrison Keillor once had a feature called “the fearmonger’s shop. This and many of the below comments could easily have been featured. If you believe the government is a malign force out to get you then they don’t need a haystack, real or imagined. The United States is not East Germany or the NSA the Stasi. Get real. Could it become such a thing? Of course. But then we have much bigger problems than the NSA.

        My point, which is being variously turned and twisted, is simply that scattergun collection is not a very effficient or competent way to run a secret police. This not just my opinion. Intelligence professionals say the same thing. If the NSA was so all seeing then we wouldn’t have had a 9/11 unless you think they were in on that too (please, don’t say yes).

        Snowden has done us all a great service by pulling back the curtain from the intelligence borg–mostly run I’d say for money making purposes (the “MIC”)–but let’s not get carried away.

        1. evergene

          You wrote, “If the NSA was so all seeing then we wouldn’t have had a 9/11…”
          We “had” 9/11 in part because President Bush’s advisers, in July, 2001, ignored warnings and predictions, from, among others, the NSA, that an attack was imminent.
          Please see the article “Two Months Before 9/11, an Urgent Warning to Rice”, at

          From the article:
          “On July 10, 2001, two months before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet met with his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, at CIA headquarters to review the latest on Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Black laid out the case, consisting of communications intercepts and other top-secret intelligence showing the increasing likelihood that al-Qaeda would soon attack the United States. It was a mass of fragments and dots that nonetheless made a compelling case, so compelling to Tenet that he decided he and Black should go to the White House immediately…”
          “…In July, 2001, two months prior to the 9/11 attack, Tenet had the NSA review all the intercepts, and the agency concluded they were of genuine al-Qaeda communications. On June 30, a top-secret senior executive intelligence brief contained an article headlined “Bin Laden Threats Are Real.”

          1. sd

            Ashcroft was told not to fly on commercial airlines – and this was revealed with little fanfare to the press during a typical departmental briefing – July 26, 2001.

        2. trish

          if it was just about the NSA being “so all seeing.”

          aside from what snowden’s exposed:
          -local police forces around the country are being armed with military equipment.
          -circuses, circuses: entertainment to distract combined with economic struggle keep the public occupied.
          -and for those who aren’t distracted, there’s the monitoring and criminalization of dissent, the labeling of dissenters/protesters as terrorists (ie environmental).
          -the DOD is planning re massive unrest.
          -the terrorism threat continues to be used liberally to keep the public fearful and more agreeable to the erosion of civil liberties.

          perhaps more I haven’t added.

          I don’t think it’s about getting “carried away.” i think it’s about being aware of what is happening.

          and as Blunden says, Corporate pressure is not the solution. Corporate pressure is the problem. and public push-back is necessary.

        3. Johann Sebastian Schminson

          Scattershot, or not, secret government is Constitutionally and fundamentally incapable of serving The People.

          Why am I running?

          Why are you chasing me?

          Giving these agencies the benefit of the doubt is foolish.

          1. Carolinian

            If it’s so secret then how do you know they are chasing you? Maybe you are just running.

            I am certainly not in favor of the government secretly spying on its citizens and, since I tend to harp on political themes around here, I’d say the best way to prevent that is to elect a government that won’t do it. The complacency, it seems to me, has more to do with the way Americans accept the current political process.

            As for 9/11, it’s true a general warning was made but many specific details of the plot were heard in advance but not unearthed until later because of bureaucratic reasons or they were lost in the noise. The problem with haystacks is you have to know what you are looking for. A truly scary NSA would have a lot more operatives and they would be out on the street, not staring at computer screens. Technology alone can only take you so far.

            1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

              Elect a government that won’t do it?

              We already have elected government AND laws against them “doing it.” (The 4th Amendment springs to mind).

              Never mistake complacency of the citizenry for assent to government criminality.

              Secrets are lies.

            2. Ned Ludd

              The complacency, it seems to me, has more to do with the way Americans accept the current political process.

              There are many people who do not accept the current political process, but they are often accused of paranoia and fear-mongering.

              1. hunkerdown

                And conspiracy theorizing, which is the bourgeois way of saying “how dare you question the social order that treats me well?”

            3. sd

              DO5 was actively tracking Al Qaeda and its operatives when they were called off. They were never allowed to testify to Congress about what they knew.

        4. McMike

          Oh, I agree, as an actual preventative intelligence gathering mechanism, scattershot electronic hoovering is of limited benefit and certainly not worth the cost or loss of liberty.

          But insamuch as it is routinely used against, for instance, domestic peace groups and drug dealers, national security is obviously not the only motivation for doing it.

          PS. the reason we are not Eastern Europe circa Berlin Wall era is BECAUSE we have (had) laws to try and prevent that from happening. We ignore those rules at our peril.

        5. Ned Ludd

          Contrast your remark – “I do think paranoia about the NSA may be a bit overdone.” – with the German reaction:

          Markus Ferber, a member of Merkel’s Bavarian sister party who sits in the European Parliament, went further, accusing Washington of using “American-style Stasi methods“.

          “I thought this era had ended when the DDR fell,” he said, using the German initials for the failed German Democratic Republic.

        6. Ned Ludd

          William Binney, a former high-level intelligence official who was with the NSA for 30 years, refers to the NSA’s mass surveillance program as “The Stasi on super-steroids”. He also addresses the inability of a dissident to get a fair trail in the U.S.

          Sophie Shevardnadze: Do you think [Snowden] can trust the system?

          William Binney: I don’t believe he’d ever get a fair trial here, no. He can’t trust the system at all.

          Shevardnadze: Why not?

          Binney: I think what John Kerry was saying, plus other officials in the in the row, because they manipulate things in the court…

          They are hiding behind secrecy and lies, and secret interpretations, and secret courts, to build a secret government with secret laws, to cover themselves. That’s what they are doing, and they need to own up to that, and they’re not doing that.

    4. Ned Ludd

      If you acquiesce to our current system, or only engage in rebellion theater, then you have nothing to worry about. Never disrupt, never get on the wrong side of the powerful, and never make an enemy of anyone connected to the surveillance state.

      However, using intelligence to conduct covert campaigns of psychological harassment – called Zersetzung – is how the Stasi destroyed the lives of actual dissidents.

      By the 1970s, the Stasi had decided that methods of overt persecution which had been employed up to that time, such as arrest and torture, were too crude and obvious. It was realised that psychological harassment was far less likely to be recognised for what it was, so its victims, and their supporters, were less likely to be provoked into active resistance, given that they would often not be aware of the source of their problems, or even its exact nature. […]

      Other practices included property damage, sabotage of cars, purposely incorrect medical treatment, smear campaigns including sending falsified compromising photos or documents to the victim’s family, denunciation, provocation, psychological warfare, psychological subversion, wiretapping, bugging, mysterious phone calls or unnecessary deliveries, even including sending a vibrator to a target’s wife. Usually victims had no idea the Stasi were responsible. Many thought they were losing their minds, and mental breakdowns and suicide could result.

      1. Banger

        Great point. It’s also true the Stasi used a fake opposition which is even more prominently on display here in the U.S.

      2. McMike

        COINTELPRO and other FBI programs did this quite frequently in the US.

        A favorite was to send letters to activist’s wives, purporting to be from a mistress. Of course actual honey traps worked well too.

        The use of agent provocateurs infiltrating groups and sowing conflict or legal entrapment created an atmosphere of well-founded paranoia which was in itself highly disruptive.

        As a fallback, a couple agents can just go to your place of work and to your neighbor’s houses and ask some questions.

        Then there’s Nixon’s use of the IRS….

      3. Kurt Sperry

        “Other practices included property damage, sabotage of cars, purposely incorrect medical treatment, smear campaigns including sending falsified compromising photos or documents to the victim’s family, denunciation, provocation, psychological warfare, psychological subversion, wiretapping, bugging, mysterious phone calls or unnecessary deliveries, even including sending a vibrator to a target’s wife. Usually victims had no idea the Stasi were responsible. Many thought they were losing their minds, and mental breakdowns and suicide could result.”

        Many of these techniques have low entry barriers as it were and could easily be adopted against the elites. Most of these and many, many more could be employed using only a small budget and a residence address and contact information. Those with the most to lose are understandably paranoid and nervous, the amount and type of direct pressure needed to cause psychological unease and distress is probably much less than would be necessary against normal, healthy psyches.

        1. hunkerdown

          It’s certainly poetically satisfying to exploit the adversary’s playbook against them, but the asymmetry is not so profound. What’s it cost to put out a hit on a soft target? A few grand? It can’t cost orders of magnitude more to simply just find the origin of such a message, especially if one has a flex net to help out and borrow some govt databases. And how many random car intentionals does it take to break up a cell or a network of them?

          But you’re making the mistake of Othering them as mentally ill (a transpersonal strategy of exclusion, sister to “conspiracy theorist”) when mental illness is a cultural, not medical, concept. If you’re looking for unease, that is caused by a mismatch between worldview and our lived experience of it. Culturally and economically, they’re foreigners. They don’t share our interests or our perspective. Their worlds are already prepared with narratives to justify our destruction (Christian scripture, in particular, makes this sort of thing consumer-easy for the aspiring compartmentalizer). They already see us as subhuman for failing to partake of their Holy Bourgeois Aesthetic and glorify them. They don’t need or want to be included in your club as much as you need and want to be in the good graces of theirs (as they have arranged your world so that you don’t eat without their permission).

          Why would they? What’s in it for them? How’s one going to restore the good old days of the Habsburgs by coddling the lumpen Habsnotsburgs? It’s worth noting that the secret police considers “property” as part of the definition of life, in the context of threats thereto; richies in Atherton managed to get the FBI seriously involved several months back in someone tagging their prestigious manors with anti-elite messaging. (I wonder whether that tagger ever got caught; I also wonder whether they’re still alive.)

        2. hunkerdown

          If anything, I would argue that those for whom society and its stories are *not* presently working toward satisfying basic needs, i.e. the precariat, are going to be the ones most impacted by the working of Zersetzung against them.

      4. trish

        “Never disrupt, never get on the wrong side of the powerful, and never make an enemy of anyone connected to the surveillance state.”

        true for the East Germans, and true today, here- albeit more hidden and disguised behind the face of democracy.

        And, by the way, a really good film on the STASI is The Lives of Others (German, Das Leben der Anderen).

    5. Jagger

      What I don’t understand is how any sort of electronic communication can be authenticated. How do you prove the evidence was actually created by the accused with 100% accuracy and not something manufactured by some other malicious entity? I am curious about that.

      1. McMike

        I’ve long wondered about that.

        I presume that the media and courts generally accept official assertions without question. They are taken at their word.

        I am not aware of any successful challenging of the evidence, even though it would be easy to fake, and the cops themselves are know to not be above being the ones to fake it.

        Of course, since our system is designed to scare people into pleading out by threatening them with massive piling-on and trumping-up, you take a big risk in putting your future in the hands of judges and juries. Having the truth on your side is no guarantee of success in our lopsided system.

        And in any case, your life is already shattered by that time, even if you are innocent.

      2. Skeptic

        Good point, Jagger. Here is a link to some Canadian law regarding Facebook “evidence” and the tests it must pass. There was a notable case in Connecticut where a person claimed his account had been hacked and the “evidence” was unreliable. That argument was accepted.

        Here’s a Defense, “Your Honor, the NSA spends Billions on personnel and have the means to hack any account, anywhere, anytime….” True and very sensible but what Judge will stand up to the System?

        There is an old requirement for “evidence” and that is Chain Of Possession. That is, the Authorities must show that the “evidence” was found, preserved and possessed by them without interference or tampering. How can you prove that with Internet “evidence”?

        But, like many common sense things today, out the window!

        1. McMike

          You may well in fact be prohibited from even trying to present that defense in court, by a judge that will preemptively decide that the NSA’s evidence is infallible and not open to challenge.

      3. Johann Sebastian Schminson

        If the government says intercepted communications are genuine, who are the People to doubt them?

        It’s not like they haven’t always done their duty to the governed.

        Our government is beyond reproach. The People, OTOH . . .

    6. Abe, NYC

      In the USSR of my childhood it was widely known (but never officially acknowledged) that all letters were subject to “perlustration,” i.e. the KGB would open and inspect any suspicious letter or package, and suspicious telegrams were also forwarded for review. So it was known and decried by the society. I find breathtaking the ease with which Americans have turned their privacy over to the very government they are supposedly so mistrustful of. An interesting aspect though is the surreal deference to the sanctity of physical property – e.g. a letter – but not digital content, such as an email. Jimmy Carter has a point.

      1. sleepy

        I recall when I was in high school in the mid-sixties, one of our teachers told us how every typewriter in the Soviet Union was registered with the state, so that every typed document could be traced back to the owner.

        The class was aghast at this sort of personal obtrusiveness. No one–at least few 16 yr. olds–could imagine the US doing anything like that. How naive we were.

        1. sd

          Today, transit of all mail is recorded as it is processed through the system from drop off to delivery.

  2. craazyman

    Oh man, Geeks gone wild! Eigenemorality??? What are you trying to do Lambert burn our brains on a Sunday? Let’s all crowd source up the Azetc pyramid, shall we. Where’s the Ouija Board when you need it.

    Speaking of lunacy and eigenvectors. I recently ran across an abstract of a research paper in the “Journal of Economic Policy Predicaments” that proposed changing the economics degree from PhD to MD.

    The authors (one of who was the well-known Chinese economist Fuk Yoo PhD) did a principal components analysis of economic modeling over a 50 year period and then ran a regression of the resulting eiegenvectors against the conditions of delusion, lunacy, delirium, confusion, error, incompleteness and then used those as factors in a model that sought to explain the difference between ecomomic predictions and outocmes — the r squre was 98.6%. Holy smokes! The authors recommended that economics become a division of the department of psychiatry in the medical school with the MD designation standing for “Mental Disorder”.

    Fuk Yoo may be looking for work soon, Not sure his faculty colleagues will appreciate his research. Maybe he can get a job driving a taxi in Queens. They’re green now by the way. It’s weird to see a green taxi. I don’t know about you but for me if a taxi isn’t honey-bee-yellow it’s not real.

    1. Paul Niemi

      While that guy trips down an Eigenvector to discover Stoic philosophy somewhere out in the interplanetary dust and space, it occurs to me that maybe there exists a theoretical framework useful for looking at the behavior of links: good, old-fashioned TA (Transactional Analysis). The basic observation is that following a link is much the same thing as conferring a “stroke.” In TA, smiling at someone or giving a compliment transmits a good feeling called a stroke, and this behavior is necessary for the world to go around in the grand scheme. Notice that people do not come with a set of buttons to press, so you can’t reach over and press someone’s “like” button as you walk by.

      1. craazyman

        I also think “money” does the trick. Being careful who you give yours to (i.e. the Universal You). So easy to say, so hard to do. It’s an endless circle and it begins and ends at a point. And we all know you can’t define a point other than by where it isn’t.

        1. Paul Niemi

          More than three or four read you, I do. You have a wonderful sense of humor and a trenchant stream of consciousness. I could, I suppose, learn to define a point by what it is not, unless I lived in the East, where the point is not what is not the point but that the point is me, one and the same. Now, in the next few days, we are going to be hearing about the “Cult of Ignorance and Anti-intellectualism,” which is the latest broadside against Americans in general, and which is going around the commentariat. Being one, an American, I’ll feel a need to think of something to say to that, and I’ll be interested in your take. Carefulness with “money” might just fit in with that, or not.

      1. craazyman

        if you ever think you waste too much time, I’ve found it helps to see what other people do. Sweeping vistas of possibility present themselves, ones you have never considered, championed by athletes of an indefatigable intellectual indolence, and then you don’t feel so bad. — Geek porn without the naked women. Now, back to wasting time . . . too cloudy today for pictchas cause the colors don’t POP the way I want them to.

        1. craazyman

          ooops. I don’t mean to be so critical. sometimes (frankly almost all the time) I figure there’s 3 or 4 people reading this, at most. Maybe just one or two. It amazes me anybody reads it at all, that always cracks me up, the thought somebody actually read what I typed. Why? haha ahahhaahah. Just having fun. clearly the dude is very bright and very thoughtful & he admits quantifying this stuff is no easy task. Maybe he’s the Ron Jeremy of Geek Porn ! He certainly knows how to waste time. I tip my hat to him.

      2. ewmayer

        Spectral graph theory applied to the eternal question of morality/altruism. Next question?

  3. diptherio

    A couple summers ago I was backpacking in the Swan Wilderness in NW Montana. I was sitting by a peaceful lake, enjoying the solitude and the quiet, when suddenly, right behind me, I heard what sounded like a helicopter. Almost scared the poop out of me. Calm…silence…and then BBBRRRRRRR!!!!

    After gathering my wits and making sure my heart was still beating, I looked around to see what the hell was making that racket. Sure enough, it was one of those little guys from the antidote, buzzing around a few yards behind me, sticking his beak in every open flower, like Ron Jeremy at a swinger’s convention. Loud for little guys…

    1. McMike

      And then there’s the mating displays… wow. Been nearly decapitated by a dive bombing bird.

      look at me look at me: [sorry, I couldn’t find a decent video that captured the sounds and image]


      We have some very aggressive males (mainly black chinned) at our feeders; they spend more energy patrolling and chasing all the others away all day than they would use if they simply chilled out and shared the nearly unlimited supply available to them.


      1. trish

        or the territorial battles between two.
        And I’ve been outside reading and a male will come “buzzing” at me repeatedly and hovering in my face, with what seems like an angry expression.

    2. sleepy

      Ah, the Swan Mountains. Was going to go backpacking in there last year, but my wife got a little concerned about grizzlies. So, we did some car camping and day hikes instead. Still a gorgeous area.

      1. Jagger

        I spent two years in Montana back in 75-76. Lots of backpacking in the Belt mountains. In two years, ran into 2 bears-1 grizzly and 1 black bear. Also one pack of wolves or coyotes came near the campfire late at night chasing/tracking something. Those howls will send the shiver up your back. Good times. So few people were out there than.

  4. rjs

    re: Obamacare delivers ​”sticker shock”
    notice “The higher rates are likely caused by insurers creating plans with more benefits, and therefore carrying a higher price tag, than the types of coverage bought by individuals before the ACA, the report notes.”

    according to the bean counters at the BLS & Census, the cost of health insurance fell 0.2% in May and was down 0.1% from a year earlier:

    we can’t have that…cue the charges that the CPI data is being manipulated…

  5. Howard Beale IV

    Now that we’re into the edges of the silly season, pray tell what big plans are afoot for the Skunk Party for 2014? Where’s the platform? Where’s the candidates? Is this just gonna be another form of mental masturbation, or are you going to get goddam serious?

    1. Doug Terpstra

      ISIS as “instrument of Western military” is a given.

      Hmmm: US-sponsored Syrian civil war = ISIS; ISIS = al-Qaeda; al-Qaeda = 9/11. Too many dots?

      1. Banger

        There are many, many dots–again, what seems to not be talked about is the long-term support by U.S. intel of Islamic fundamentalism since the 1950s.

          1. sleepy

            Not now, perhaps, but in the 50s and 60s Islamic fundamentalists in Egypt were used by the US to mess with Nasserism and socialism.

        1. neo-realist

          Presumably the least likely element to nationalize the oil resources for the benefit of the people.

      2. Cynthia

        As to the ISIS terrorists plunging Syria and Iraq into bloodbaths, it is a fact that fighters from all over the world were allowed to go and join the fighting force in Syria to affect regime change. They went mainly through NATO’s Turkey and were funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The evolution and rising strength of ISIS resembles the rise of Bin Laden and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The US backed them against the Soviet Union’s forces in Afghanistan. It’s what one might describe as the nurturing of domestically existing, but small, dark forces, into very powerful, terrifying Frankensteins.

        1. Banger

          The weird thing is that U.S./Western support for ISIS or ISIL is so blatantly obvious–it’s amazing how the propaganda organs can constantly ignore that and never be called to account.

          1. hunkerdown

            It’s amazing, for a minute, but I usually find that simply going to a chain restaurant disabuses me of all wonder at that: people want the approval of groups they want to be like. But who’s going to call the MSM to account, and what sort of account is even meaningful in a bourgeois culture? Crodocile (stet) tears then back to the sausage seems the best that we are allowed to think about demanding.

    2. Cynthia

      This supports my theory that the US benefits from creating chaos and disorder in the Middle East. Israel undoubtedly benefits from this as well, for the US can’t make a move in this region of the world without explicit approval from AIPAC. The tail that wags the dog is an apt metaphor to accurately describe our preposterous relationship with Israel.

      1. James Levy

        I believe deep down AIPAC’s power is a convenient cover for what the Military-Intelligence-State Department wants done. It provides plausible deniability and one hell of a scapegoat if it really all goes south (“the Jews made us do it!”). Notice how AIPAC never complains when a big contract for the most up to date weapons is signed with the Saudis or the Gulf States, but if the Palestinians have a pop-gun its deemed an “existential threat to the survival of the Jewish people” (as if all the Jewish people lived in Israel). This is because Uncle Sam is very happy to twist Israel’s arm and shut them up on certain things, while playing lame and powerless on others. The whole scam is a pantomime with the US, the Saudis, and the Israelis in cahoots.

        1. hunkerdown

          Oh, interesting. It’s almost as if you’re suggesting the lobbying part is just cover for status (the special partnership is well-settled) while the baksheesh goes to work elsewhere, say, to covertly assert their interests in civil society via e.g. administratively sabotaging BDS campaigns?

  6. Cynthia

    Re: “After the ACA: Salem Health experiences good and bad”

    Salem Health should thank its lucky stars that Medicaid patients don’t have high deductibles as well. Its revenues would quickly shift and bleed heavily into the red.

    This growing divide between those on Medicaid and those who aren’t is causing our two-tiered healthcare system to resemble that of one in a typical third world country. Who would have thought that ObamaCare was supposed to move us one step closer to socialized medicine is actually moving us one step closer to third world medicine! The Establishment Left has some major explaining to do, at least the ones that haven’t already sold out to our kleptocratic healthcare system.

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      Our political “left” is far-right, by historical standards.

      We used to have Conservatives and Liberals. Under Bushco, the term “neocon” became widely used, if grossly misunderstood. I think that most folks assumed it was simply a matter of rebranding.

      Under Obama, we were introduced to “neoliberals,” with the same reaction by rank-and-file Democrats (although “liberal” was also rebranded as “progressive”).

      WTF? Did I vote for a neoliberal, and, if so, what does that mean?

      I understand that these terms have definitions, but their use in our everyday lexicon to describe political ideologies belies their true meanings.

      The corporate state has been established.


      1. Cynthia

        No doubt that “neoliberal” is a far better word to describe Obama and the Democrats in general, Johann. But I try not to use that word very often because too many eyes glaze over whenever I do, at least in my daily life this often happens. But notice that I put the modifier “Establishment” in front of the word “Left.” That’s so real liberals, who tend to be disenfranchised by the DC establishment, can be distinguished from the phony liberals, who are entrenched in the DC establishment.

        Recall, back in 2010, Rahm Emanuel referred to those of us on the real Left as “f—ing retarded.” This should have put an end to the common belief that Democrats are liberal, but it didn’t. Not at all.

        Also, the general public and the MSM have yet to come up with a replacement word to describe Democrats. So for all those who don’t understand the first thing about neoliberal ideology, and I encounter a lot of people like that, I simply use the term “establishment liberals” to describe the vast majority of Democrats. It’s not optimal, but so far it works pretty well. It’s better than seeing eyes glaze over.

        1. Eureka Springs

          How about madmen and women, war criminals and or totalitarians? Conceived in hubris… dedicated before p*berty to the Constitutional proposition that those with the most money and property have no equal.

          Granted that might confuse many as to which “party” or liberal-con persuasion you refer, but it certainly covers anyone who thinks of themselves as some sort of liberal/democrat combo.

        2. Johann Sebastian Schminson

          It seems the Republicans no longer have a lock on the double digit IQ demographic.

          They’re after everyone whose eyes are permanently glazed over.

    2. trish

      “ObamaCare was supposed to move us one step closer to socialized medicine”

      that was the claim of many on the left who supported corporate obamacare. It’s moved us instead one giant step closer to a completely-entrenched corporate health care industry/system, one much more difficult to dislodge in favor of single-payer, ever.

      1. david s

        Yes, I think Obamacare will likely set some kind of universal health care here in the US back 30 years, or more.

        It will also create another category of Too Big To Fail.

        If you think the banks are powerful, wait until a handful of mega-insurance companies control health care in this country.

        1. hunkerdown

          The TISA excerpt released by Wikileaks seems to have a lot to say about health insurance, in particular…

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    China: Winners from Thai coup.

    This from Britannica about another Taksin;

    Taksin, also called Phraya Taksin or Phya Tak (born April 17, 1734, Ayutthaya [Thailand]—died April 6, 1782, Thon Buri, Thailand), Thai general, conqueror, and later king (1767–82) who reunited Thailand, or Siam, after its defeat at the hands of the Myanmar (Burmese) in 1767.

    Of Chinese-Thai parentage, Taksin became the protégé of a Thai nobleman who enrolled him in the royal service. In


    This Taksin was an outsider, part Chinese. He got money support from overseas Chinese (Teochew, I think) merchants. He was opposed by traditional Thai military and royalists…and eventually was deposed and, the story goes, beaten to death in a silk sack.

    It’s all very similar to today’s situation with Thaksin.

    I wonder if they are related?

    In an episode of No Reservation with Anthony Bourdain, some Thai guy said that 60% of the Thais in Bangkok had some Chinese lineage in them (if I recall correctly).

  8. Garrett Pace

    Job Seeker’s Desperate Choice

    No job is worth putting kids in that situation. That’s playing by the wrong set of rules. And this:

    “the job at a Farmers Insurance broker in Scottsdale was different. “Thirty-nine thousand the first year, $65,000 the second year, $89,000 the third year,” Ms. Taylor recited. “And the fourth year, with proper work, I could have had my own agency.”

    Go stand on that very pullable rug. Wonder how many people actually get to that third year, or even the second.

    PS: It’s becoming de rigueur on these hard luck economic stories to primly note whether or not the subject is a druggie. They usually don’t investigate other, more legal forms of self medication though.

    1. fresno dan

      “Mr. Montgomery, the prosecutor, has resisted this narrative of economic privation. Because Ms. Taylor listed an address — her parents’ — on her court papers, the prosecutor says she was not homeless. And because she listed a part-time job — the very part-time office aide job — she was not unemployed.”

      I guess the prosecutor thinks that any homeless person who has a relative in a house is not homeless….
      And part time employment as a leading indicator….must work part time for the FED.

      Now a dog isn’t a human, but funny how when a cop leaves a dog in a car and it dies, the full force of the law….just kinda dissipates….

      The problem with Mr. Montgomery is his discretion – always the benefit of the doubt to police, and the full heavy boot of justice on the poor.

      1. Carla

        Actually, the full heavy boot of justice on the poor, the black and the latino.

        Furthermore, I wonder how many children Garrett Pace has raised on his own. How many day care centers or baby sitters he’s ever had to find on short notice. Or whether he’s ever taken a drink after a rough day.

        1. Garrett Pace

          It’s the article that is so eager to discuss this woman’s marijuana use, not I. Other than pointing out the obvious bad decision making on the fateful day, I’ve made no slurs about Ms. Taylor or her character. You’re having an argument, but it’s not with me.

    2. trish

      “No job is worth putting kids in that situation.”
      Of course it’s not.
      But the point of this is desperation. A serious mistake. But really, would jailing this woman really do anything at all positive? Taking away, keeping away, her kids?

        1. hunkerdown

          And every other non-commodified social relation, too.

          (Carla, we could call it “bourgeois culture”.)

  9. ohmyheck

    Sunday Cynic Humor:
    “ISIS/Al-Qaeda extremist spinoff which in recent weeks has overrun half of Iraq, ISIS, and which as we reported managed to “confiscate” an unknown number of US-made Black Hawk helicopters and Humvees, decided to use the same outlet, Twitter, to not only mock Michelle Obama, but US foreign policy in Iraq.”….. Then you see Mrs. Obama, holding the sign, which ISIS has changed the text to-

    “#Bring Back Our Humvee”

    To quote a comment- “#OMG”

    1. Cynthia

      If Michelle Obama is going to make a hashtag about the ghastly abduction of Nigerian girls, she should also condemn the killing of innocent civilians by her husband’s barbaric and unlawful drone attacks.

  10. Chauncey Gardiner

    I felt the Business Insider article pertaining to a supposed disagreement between Fed Chair Janet Yellen and several Wall Street analysts concerning the emergence of inflation intentionally diverts readers away from the ineffectivenesss of QE-ZIRP as an economic policy tool, and ignores its implementation by the Bernanke Fed as a device to concentrate wealth and resources in the hands of relatively few.

    More to the point regarding QE were the writer’s final observations in the linked article from the Telegraph concerning the potential effects of conflict in Iraq on global oil supplies and crude oil prices: … “Finally, an oil price spike might mean the Federal Reserve goes easy on tapering and keeps QE on the go. This money-printing lark is a tale, like the Middle East carve-up, of hubris and political skulduggery.
    Iraqi turmoil might be the excuse the Fed has been looking for.”

    With respect to that “excuse”, Brent crude oil futures on the ICE exchange closed at $114.81 bbl. on Friday, up from ~$97 bbl. a year ago. However, roughly 70 percent of that price increase occurred before ISIS forces occupied much of the Sunni region of Iraq.

    1. LizinOregon

      My problem with the article is the assumption that the Fed actually cares about its employment mandate. They only seem to care when unemployment is an indicator of the economy heating up.

    2. susan the other

      Janet Yellen is faced with nothing less than the disintegration of the entire country. Razor’s edge. So with a true unemployment rate of 17% and a minus 1% real growth rate the Fed has no choice but to belatedly follow its fairy-tale mandate of full employment and low inflation by intravenous injections. It is a marathon of manipulated data and Business Insider is a noisy, inflated idiot posing as information on the “economy”.

  11. flora

    re: Wisconsin Employment Flatlines Econbrowser
    Thanks for that link. Nice to know Kansas is down in the dumps along with Wisconsin after assiduously following ALEC directions. Last week Kansas Gov Brownback and the state lege leaders had to approve borrowing $675 million to shore up the budget. (That’s a lot of money in Kansas.) In 2012 Brownback and the lege passed massive tax cuts. Now they blame Obama and federal tax policies for the state’s declining fortunes.

    1. sd

      Maybe they can pass a tax incentive to lure filming to their state. All the cool kids are doing it. See: Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, New Mexico, New York, Massachusetts….

  12. gonzomarx

    this had an lack of coverage in the UK

    Tens of thousands march in London against coalition’s austerity measures
    An estimated 50,000 people in London addressed by speakers, including Russell Brand, after People’s Assembly march

    NHS is out of control, says Tory health minister
    Jane Ellison tells private meeting that coalition reforms ‘pretty much gave away control of NHS’

    The NHS is loved and efficient, so why the obsession with reform?
    The cheapest but best health care system in the world can only suffer when profits come first

    1. mellon

      The NHS is being privatized because of first WTO/GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services – the WTO services agreement) and now TISA, (the Trade in Services Agreement) didn’t you know? These “trade agreements” are one way streets to privatization with no side streets and no exits.

      1. hunkerdown

        Repudiation is an exit, at least from treaties with relatively fewer members.

        TISA, judging by its size and reach, is nothing less than a neoliberal suicide pact.

  13. OIFVet

    Re: the Baffler article. This morning I was on a Costco run and my music on random when the Scorpions’ ‘Wind of Change’ came on. It brought me back to that magic time in 1989/1990 when the future did seem very bright to those of us on the other side of the Wall, and when America was almost universally viewed as good and decent and American advisers were brought in to teach us commies about the virtues of the free market and capitalism. Well, I would say that in most Eastern European countries ‘American’ is a swear word now for the majority of the populations, to those who were the “losers” in the Washington Consensus-inspired reforms. There were winds of change indeed, but the change they brought bears little resemblance to the change we envisioned in those early years. We were the early version of the “Hope and Change” bait-and-switch con job if you will. Still, I agree with the author that simply blaming the ‘American’ for everything not only absolves us of our own responsibility for the mess but also of the responsibility to articulate a coherent alternative to the neoliberal sociopathy.

  14. armchair

    Lambert Strether nails it when he refers to the use of the word ‘customer’ instead of ‘citizen’ as a sign of ‘neo-liberal crapification’ in the link to the article about the shut down of Social Security field offices just as the most talked about demographic in history becomes eligible for benefits. Making a point about the rhetorical shift from citizen to customer may be a droplet in a storm of insanity, but for some of us, it is infuriating. My conlcusion was the following:

    It is time to make a very clear statement about definitions. When government agencies start calling citizens cusomers they are ignoring their responsibility to try their hardest to serve citizens with principles of due process, equal access, fair dealing and justice. What they are really saying is, “what’s in your wallet?”

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      Welcome to the wholly-owned subsidiary of the International Crime Cartel: The USA, inc.

    2. Eeyores enigma

      If they make a case against SS then we should insist that that same case hold true against the insurance industry as a whole. OOps!!!

    3. trish

      ignoring their responsibilities and the fact that they’re,uh, public servants. Well, supposed to be.
      Neo-liberal crapification exemplified.

    4. Carla

      Oops. Wish I’d read your comment, armchair, before writing mine (below). Well, even though I’m going backwards today, I heartily endorse your remarks.

  15. dearieme

    “Why “American” Is a Bad Word in Australia”: if you want to raise a Bronx cheer (have I got that right?) in Britain, just refer to the US President as “Leader of the Free World”.

  16. Carla

    Re: “Social Security’s continuing assault on its own customer service” LA Times. Good article, but they’re not “customers.” They’re citizens. More neo-liberal crapification on the road to privatization and looting, as with the VA and the Post Office.

    THANK YOU Lambert. In a phone conversation a few weeks ago I took off on the hapless young Assistant Director of our local Public Library when she referred to me as a “customer.” I said “Call me a citizen. Call me a resident. Call me a library patron. But don’t you dare call me a customer!” Plainly mystified, she sputtered, “That’s what we were trained to say.” Poor thing. A Master’s in Library Science may teach you something, but these days I suspect it’s akin to an MBA where any education about citizenship or democracy is concerned.

    What I wish I had said was “Call me your employer, young lady.” But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    Now to the point of the link: haven’t had a chance to read the story yet, but from personal experience I can state that since I first contacted Social Security 7 years ago regarding a widow’s benefit, to today, the reduction in hours, responsiveness, number of locations, service, and competence of personnel has been dramatic.

    And of course the same thing is happening with Medicare. All part of the plan.

  17. Yonatan

    The UK Independent produces state propaganda about the breakdown of the Poroshenko “peace plan” (executive summary – separatists surrender or die). The Ukraine oligarchs quickly reveal their reaction (executive summary – separatists die).

    Kolomoisky openly told the president that he will never obey and his army will finish off the separatists.

    Lyashko, leader of another “private army”, refuses to accept Poroshenko”s “peace plan”

    Breakdown between the state authority and the powerful oligarchs is becoming visible

  18. Roland

    @ Carolinian,

    We’re talking about governments openly stating that they carry out routine surveillance and recording of ordinary communication between their citizens, and somehow you think this is no big deal?

    You say that the data being gathered will prove of little use. If you mean that mass surveillance is unlikely to improve the protection of the public against serious dangers, you would be correct. Indeed, the haystack problem is obvious at once to anyone who bothers to think of the matter.

    So now ask yourself: if everyone with a brain knows that an immense haystack of information would be of little practical use in protecting the public, then why have the surveillance agencies enjoyed nonstop expansion of their technical means along with rapid expansion of their legal authority?

    You’re not stupid, Carolinian. You can figure this out. The people doing the surveillance know that what they’re doing is not likely to optimize pubic safety. Since they’re probably no stupider than you or I, then it stands to reason that they are probably engaging in their activities for reasons not primarily related to public safety.

    You and I don’t know what use they will make of all this data. Speculation is rampant on that subject. But we don’t need to know what they intend, nor do we need to speculate, in order to at least be quite certain that they’re not doing mass surveillance for the sake of public safety.

    Carolinian, if you’re concerned about “paranoia,” then why aren’t you calling for the complete abolition of these mass surveillance programmes? If the surveillance programmes no longer existed, then no one would exhibit any of the paranoia you have wasted several posts complaining about.

    After all, as you have already told us here, you don’t think that mass surveillance is a good use of resources. If you called for the abolition of mass surveillance, you could both promote efficiency and counteract “paranoia.” I thin that would be a more efficient use of your own resources.

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